The Prichard Blog!

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The Prichard Blog!

After years of focusing on behalf of better institutions, I have a ready answer when people ask my opinion about the most crucial thing we can do to boost education outcomes: spend money on quality early child-years programs. Pre-birth through kindergarten is the most significant time for children to build up socially and psychologically and to create learning patterns for college and work.

He known then what research clearly shows now – that early investments are critical to improve students’ chances for a solid education. Forty years later, researchers continue steadily to follow the Perry Preschool students with long-term results displaying higher earnings, higher likelihood of home ownership and using a checking account and lower incidence of criminal offense.

I am often asked about a Head Start study that showed test ratings of third graders who did not attend Head Begin to be essentially the identical to those of children who do. The implication is that Head Start didn’t change lives. Long-term results, however, show children in the scheduled program are less likely to need special education services, less likely to repeat marks and much more likely to graduate from high school.

What this implies, as Nobel Laureate and University of Chicago Professor James Heckman highlights, is that these programs change lives in such executive skills as perseverance, inspiration, attention, self-confidence, and getting along with peers. We often forget that skilled educators help children solve their own disputes on the playground, guide them to complete tasks and help them gain self-confidence by solving their own problems. These are skills needed in classrooms and the workplace.

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Established early, they last an eternity. Health care specialists – in addition to economists – are also focused on children in their earliest years. Research shows more powerful outcomes when mothers have good prenatal care and deliver babies at term. Brain development within the last two to three weeks of pregnancy and in the first couple of years of life is critical in establishing the building blocks for learning and socio-emotional development. All young children deserve to maintain quality conditions, whether at home, in child-care settings or in preschool. They want adults who value them, talk with them, read to them, help them offer with stressful events, and provide them with a secure, loving, and nurturing environment.

Kentucky is moving coordinate and provide these supports through the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood and with the Race to the Top Early Childhood grant, but it will take a focus on quality and an investment of resources. We know through research that giving our children the strongest possible start isn’t only the smart thing to do, it’s the right move to make.